Intensive lifestyle changes can help people at risk of developing diabetes to ward off the disease, according to a report from the University in Dunedin, New Zealand. Whereas modest efforts to boost exercise and improve diet may not be successful.
Insulin resistance occurs when a person begins to lose the ability to respond to the effects of this blood sugar-regulating hormone. People with insulin resistance are at risk of going on to develop diabetes. Although increased physical activity and dietary modification have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, these studies looked at the extent of lifestyle change required to prevent diabetes.
The New Zealand researchers assigned 79 non-diabetic, insulin-resistant individuals to either a no-intervention "control" group or one of two lifestyle intervention groups. In the "modest" intervention group, designed to reflect present dietary and exercise advice, participants aimed to consume less than 32% of total energy from fat, more than 25 grams of fiber per day, and incorporated 30 minutes of physical activity into their lives 5 days per week.
In the "intensive" intervention group, participants tried to consume less than 26% of total energy from fat, more than 35 grams of fiber per day, and to exercise to an intensity of 80% to 90% of their age-adjusted maximum heart rate for 20 minutes 5 times per week.
At the end of the 4-month study, the intensive group experienced a 23% increase in insulin sensitivity compared with only a 9% increase in the modest group, which was not much better than the control group. The scientists believe improved aerobic fitness is one of the main factors accounting for the improved insulin sensitivity. Aerobic fitness improved 11% in the intensive exercise group versus 1% in the modest exercise group.
Weight loss, increased consumption of dietary fiber, whole grain cereals and replacing a high proportion of saturated fat with unsaturated fat are the dietary measures that have the potential to reduce risk.
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